Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dawkins' sexed-up atheism

How does Richard Dawkins respond to Antony Flew's allegation that in The God Delusion Dawkins misrepresents Einstein's view of divine intelligence:

'Antony Flew, having lost the ability to write a book, was persuaded by a Christian ghost writer, Roy Varghese, to let him write it instead. It is one thing for a footballer or a supermodel to use a ghost writer, but there is something absurd about a philosopher using a ghost writer. Flew has now apparently lost the ability to read a book, too, for his 'review' of The God Delusion turns out to be a review of its index and nothing but its index. He only needed to read Chapter 1, in order to see the absurdity of his claims about my treatment of Einstein.'
(Quoted in The Telegraph)

The unashamedly personal nature of much of Dawkins' response, from someone who makes much of being a promoter of well reasoned argument, hardly amounts to an adequate rebuttal of Flew's charge. Leaving that aside, lets take up Dawkins' point that one only need read Chapter 1 of The God Delusion to see that he has provided an accurate representation of Einstein's view of God:

'A deist, too, [like a theist] believes in a supernatural intelligence, but one whose activities were confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe in the first place. The deist God never intervenes thereafter, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs. Pantheists don't believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a nonsupernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfulness that governs its workings. Deists differ from theists in that their God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that the deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist's metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe. Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.

'There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like 'God is subtle but he is not malicious' or 'He does not play dice' or 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic. 'God does not play dice' should be translated as 'Randomness does not lie at the heart of all things.' 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' means 'Could the universe have begun in any other way?' Einstein was using 'God' in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense. . . . .'
(Quoted on Dawkins' website)

Is it accurate to portray Einstein as an adherent of Dawkins pantheism as 'sexed-up atheism'? Here's what Einstein had to say on an occasion when he was asked to define God:

'I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist.'
(Quoted in M. Jammer, Einstein and Religion, Princeton 1999, p. 48.)

Looks like Flew might have a case.

1 comment:

  1. But Dawkins has no answer to pandeism.... though, nor has any theism such an answer....


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